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Costa Rica Travel Checklist – Before You Go To Costa Rica


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Arabelle Loudermilk


Passport and Visa Requirements

When planning a trip to Costa Rica, it’s essential to ensure that you have the necessary passport and visa documents in order to enter the country. Here are a few key things to keep in mind:

  • Passport Validity: Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your planned departure date from Costa Rica. This is a requirement for entry into the country.
  • Visa Exemption: Visitors from many countries, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and most European Union countries, do not require a visa to enter Costa Rica. Instead, they will receive a stamp on their passport upon arrival, allowing them to stay for up to 90 days.
  • Visa for Longer Stays: If you plan to stay in Costa Rica for more than 90 days, you will need to apply for a longer-term visa. This can be done at a Costa Rican embassy or consulate prior to your trip. Alternatively, you can leave the country before your initial 90-day period expires and then re-enter to start a new 90-day period.
  • Proof of Onward Travel: When entering Costa Rica, immigration officials may require you to show proof of onward travel, such as a return ticket or travel itinerary. Make sure to have this documentation readily available.
  • Passport Copies: It’s always a good idea to make copies of your passport and other important travel documents. Keep these copies in a separate location from your original documents, in case of loss or theft.

Before traveling to Costa Rica, it’s advisable to check the latest entry requirements and visa regulations for your specific nationality. This information can be obtained from the Costa Rican embassy or consulate in your home country.


Vaccinations and Health Preparations

Prior to traveling to Costa Rica, it is important to take certain health precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip. Here are some key considerations regarding vaccinations and health preparations:

  • Routine Vaccinations: Ensure that your routine vaccinations, such as measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis, are up to date. These are important for travelers of all ages.
  • Hepatitis A: Consider getting vaccinated against Hepatitis A, as this disease can be contracted through contaminated food or water in Costa Rica.
  • Typhoid: Depending on the specific activities and areas you plan to visit, a typhoid vaccination may be recommended. This is especially relevant for travelers venturing off the beaten path or consuming food and water from local sources.
  • Malaria: In certain regions of Costa Rica, such as rural areas along the borders with Nicaragua and Panama, malaria is a concern. If you plan to visit these areas, it is advisable to take anti-malarial medication and use mosquito repellent.
  • Dengue and Zika: Costa Rica also has a presence of diseases transmitted by mosquitos, including dengue and Zika. Protect yourself from mosquito bites by wearing protective clothing and using insect repellent.
  • Altitude Sickness: If you plan to visit higher-altitude regions, such as the Monteverde Cloud Forest or the Arenal Volcano area, be aware of the potential for altitude sickness. Take it easy upon arrival, stay hydrated, and consider medications or supplements to alleviate symptoms.
  • Travel Insurance: It is strongly recommended to obtain travel insurance that covers medical expenses, emergencies, and medical evacuation. Ensure that the policy includes coverage for any adventure activities you plan to participate in.

Consult with a healthcare professional or a travel clinic to discuss the specific vaccinations and health precautions you should take based on your individual circumstances and travel plans. They will be able to provide personalized recommendations and advice.


Remember to pack a basic first aid kit with essentials such as band-aids, antiseptics, and any necessary prescription medication. Also, be cautious of water and food hygiene practices to avoid traveler’s diarrhea by drinking bottled water and eating at reputable establishments.


Travel Insurance

When embarking on a trip to Costa Rica, it is crucial to have adequate travel insurance coverage to protect yourself against any unexpected events or emergencies. Here are some key points to consider when purchasing travel insurance:

  • Medical Coverage: Ensure that your travel insurance policy includes comprehensive medical coverage, including emergency medical expenses, hospitalization, and medical evacuation. This is particularly important when engaging in adventurous activities such as zip-lining, surfing, or hiking in remote areas.
  • Trip Cancellation and Interruption: Look for a policy that offers coverage for trip cancellation or interruption due to unforeseen circumstances, such as illness, natural disasters, or family emergencies. This will provide reimbursement for non-refundable expenses like flights and accommodations.
  • Lost or Delayed Baggage: Check if your travel insurance covers lost, stolen, or delayed baggage. This will help cover the cost of replacing essential items or compensate for the inconvenience caused by delayed luggage.
  • Emergency Assistance: Make sure your policy includes 24/7 emergency assistance. This can be invaluable in situations where you require immediate support or advice, such as during a medical emergency or if you need help locating a local healthcare facility.
  • Adventure Activity Coverage: If you plan to participate in adventure sports or activities in Costa Rica, such as canopy tours, rafting, or snorkeling, verify that your policy includes coverage for these specific activities. Some high-risk activities may require additional coverage or have specific exclusions.
  • Read the Fine Print: Carefully review the policy terms and conditions to fully understand the coverage, exclusions, and any requirements for making a claim. Pay attention to any pre-existing medical conditions, deductibles, and the maximum coverage limits.
  • Keep Documents Handy: Carry a copy of your travel insurance policy, the emergency contact numbers, and any other relevant documentation with you during your trip. This way, you can easily access the necessary information in case of an emergency.

Before purchasing travel insurance, assess your specific needs and compare different policies to find one that aligns with your travel plans. It is important to invest in reliable and comprehensive coverage to have peace of mind and ensure a worry-free travel experience in Costa Rica.


Currency and Banking

Understanding the currency and banking system in Costa Rica is essential for a smooth and hassle-free trip. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Official Currency: The official currency of Costa Rica is the Costa Rican Colón (CRC). It is advisable to carry some local currency for smaller purchases, as many establishments may not accept foreign currency.
  • Exchange Rate: The exchange rate between the Costa Rican Colón and major foreign currencies fluctuates, so it’s a good idea to check the current rates before traveling. You can exchange money at the airport, local banks, or authorized currency exchange booths.
  • Credit Cards: Credit cards are widely accepted in most tourist areas, hotels, restaurants, and larger stores. Visa and Mastercard are the most commonly accepted cards, followed by American Express. It is always a good practice to inform your credit card company of your travel plans to avoid any issues with card transactions.
  • ATMs: ATMs can be found throughout Costa Rica in major cities, towns, and tourist areas. They provide a convenient way to withdraw cash in the local currency. However, it is advisable to use ATMs located within bank premises or reputable locations to minimize the risk of card skimming or other fraudulent activities.
  • Banking Hours: Banks in Costa Rica generally operate from Monday to Friday, between 9:00 AM and 3:00 PM. Some larger branches may also be open on Saturdays for limited hours. It is important to plan your banking needs accordingly and be aware of potential closures during holidays.
  • Traveler’s Checks: While traveler’s checks were once widely used, they have become less common in Costa Rica. It may be difficult to find establishments that accept traveler’s checks, so it is advisable to rely on other forms of payment, such as cash or credit cards.
  • Tipping and Service Charges: In Costa Rica, tipping is not generally expected but is appreciated for good service. In restaurants, a 10% service charge is often included in the bill, but it is still customary to leave some loose change on the table. It is always a good idea to check the bill to ensure that a service charge has not already been applied.

Remember to notify your bank about your travel plans to avoid any issues with using your debit or credit cards abroad. Always keep an eye on your belongings and be cautious when using ATMs to protect yourself from potential scams or theft. Following these tips will help you navigate the currency and banking system in Costa Rica with ease.


Transportation in Costa Rica

Whether you’re exploring the vibrant capital city of San José or venturing into the lush rainforests and stunning beaches, understanding the transportation options in Costa Rica is key to a successful trip. Here are some important aspects of getting around in Costa Rica:

  • Public Buses: Public buses are the most common mode of transportation in Costa Rica. They are affordable and cover an extensive network of routes across the country. The bus system is reliable, and buses are equipped with air conditioning.
  • Taxis: Taxis are a convenient way to navigate within cities and towns. It is recommended to use official red taxis with a yellow triangle on the side, as they are regulated and tend to be safer. Confirming that the driver uses a meter or agreeing on a fare before the trip is also advisable.
  • Car Rental: Renting a car is a popular option for travelers who want the flexibility to explore Costa Rica at their own pace. Major car rental companies have offices in the airports and key tourist destinations. It is important to be aware of driving conditions, as some roads may be challenging, especially in rural areas.
  • Uber and Ride-Hailing Apps: Uber and other ride-hailing apps are available in Costa Rica, primarily in the major cities. They offer a convenient and often more affordable alternative to traditional taxis.
  • Domestic Flights: For long distances or to reach remote areas, domestic flights can be a time-saving option. Domestic airlines operate flights between major cities and popular tourist destinations. Flights provide breathtaking aerial views of the country’s natural beauty.
  • Ferry Services: If you’re planning to visit popular destinations like the Nicoya Peninsula or the Osa Peninsula, ferry services are available. They offer a scenic and enjoyable way to travel across bodies of water and can accommodate both passengers and vehicles.
  • Bicycle and Walking: In cities or towns with well-developed infrastructure, cycling and walking are great ways to explore. Many tourist areas have bike rental shops, allowing you to leisurely explore your surroundings and enjoy the scenery.

It’s important to note that transportation options may vary depending on the region and accessibility of certain areas. It’s recommended to plan your travel routes in advance, taking into consideration factors like distance, road conditions, and time constraints.


Regardless of the mode of transportation you choose, always be mindful of your belongings and take necessary safety precautions, especially when using public transportation. Enjoy the journey as you traverse the varied landscapes of Costa Rica.


Accommodation Options

Costa Rica offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit every traveler’s preferences and budget. Whether you’re looking for a luxurious beachfront resort, an eco-friendly jungle lodge, or a budget-friendly hostel, you’ll find plenty of choices. Here are some popular accommodation options in Costa Rica:

  • Hotels and Resorts: From boutique hotels to international chains, Costa Rica is home to numerous hotels and resorts that cater to different needs and budgets. You can find a range of amenities such as swimming pools, spas, restaurants, and organized activities.
  • Eco-Lodges and Sustainable Retreats: Costa Rica is a global leader in eco-tourism, and as such, there are many eco-lodges and sustainable retreats scattered throughout the country. These accommodations offer immersive nature experiences while minimizing the impact on the environment.
  • Jungle Lodges and Wildlife Refuges: For a truly immersive rainforest experience, consider staying at a jungle lodge or wildlife refuge. These accommodations allow you to explore the incredible biodiversity of Costa Rica’s flora and fauna, often with expert guides to enhance your experience.
  • Beachfront Resorts and Villas: With miles of stunning coastline, Costa Rica is renowned for its beautiful beaches. Beachfront resorts and private villas offer direct access to the pristine beaches, perfect for relaxation and water activities such as surfing, snorkeling, or simply soaking up the sun.
  • Hostels and Guesthouses: Budget-conscious travelers can find affordable accommodations in hostels and guesthouses throughout the country. These options provide shared or private rooms, communal spaces, and the opportunity to meet fellow travelers.
  • Home Rentals: Renting a vacation home or villa is a popular choice for families or larger groups. Websites and platforms like Airbnb offer a variety of options, ranging from cozy cabins to spacious beach houses.
  • Camping: For adventurous travelers, camping is a great option to immerse yourself in nature. There are designated camping areas within national parks and some private properties. Just make sure to research and plan accordingly, as facilities and amenities can be limited.

When selecting accommodation in Costa Rica, consider factors such as location, proximity to attractions, amenities, and reviews from previous guests. It is advisable to book in advance, especially during peak travel seasons, to secure your preferred choice.


Whichever type of accommodation you choose, be sure to respect the natural surroundings and follow sustainable practices. Costa Rica is committed to environmental conservation, and by choosing eco-friendly accommodations, you contribute to the country’s efforts to protect its natural treasures.


Language and Communication

The official language of Costa Rica is Spanish, and it is widely spoken throughout the country. However, due to the growing tourism industry, English is also commonly spoken in popular tourist areas, hotels, and restaurants. Here are some key points to note about language and communication in Costa Rica:

  • Spanish Basics: It can be helpful to learn a few basic Spanish phrases and greetings before your trip. Locals appreciate the effort, even if your Spanish skills are limited. Simple greetings like “Hola” (Hello) and “Gracias” (Thank you) can go a long way.
  • English Proficiency: While English is spoken by many locals in tourist areas, it is still advisable to have a basic understanding of Spanish, especially if you plan to venture off the beaten path or interact with locals in more remote areas.
  • Bilingual Guides and Staff: Tourist attractions, national parks, and popular destinations often have bilingual guides and staff members who can assist you in English. They can provide valuable insights and information about the area.
  • Language Barrier: In smaller towns or more rural areas, you may encounter fewer English speakers. In these situations, having a translation app or a pocket dictionary can be useful for communicating basic needs or seeking assistance.
  • Non-Verbal Communication: Non-verbal communication can help bridge language barriers. Sign language, gestures, and facial expressions can often convey meanings or help you negotiate and navigate daily interactions.
  • Technology and Communication: Most hotels, resorts, and coffee shops offer Wi-Fi, making it easy to stay connected with loved ones back home. International roaming plans can also be activated for your mobile device, but be aware of potential additional costs.
  • Local Etiquette: Politeness and respect for the local customs can go a long way in fostering positive interactions. Taking the time to learn and use basic greetings and phrases in Spanish can be seen as a sign of respect and appreciation for the culture.

Don’t be afraid to communicate with locals, even if there may be language barriers. Costa Ricans are known for their friendliness and willingness to help, making the communication experience enjoyable and rewarding.


Remember that the best way to improve your language skills is through practice, so embrace the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture and engage with locals to enhance your experience in Costa Rica.


Weather and Packing Essentials

Costa Rica’s location in Central America ensures a tropical climate throughout the year, but the weather can vary significantly based on the region and altitude. Understanding the weather patterns and packing the right essentials will ensure a comfortable and enjoyable trip. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Climate: Costa Rica has two primary seasons – the dry season (December to April) and the rainy season (May to November). However, even during the rainy season, mornings often tend to be sunny and clear.
  • Layers and Lightweight Clothing: Pack lightweight and breathable clothing that allows for layering, as the weather can change throughout the day. T-shirts, shorts, skirts, and lightweight pants are suitable for warmer temperatures, while a light sweater or jacket may be necessary for cooler evenings or higher elevations.
  • Rain Gear: Due to the possibility of rain, it is essential to pack a lightweight rain jacket or poncho. This will keep you dry during unexpected showers or for outdoor activities like hiking in rainforests or visiting waterfalls.
  • Sun Protection: The sun in Costa Rica can be intense, so remember to pack sunscreen with a high SPF, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat to protect yourself from harmful UV rays. Insect repellent is also recommended to guard against mosquitos and other bugs.
  • Hiking Shoes and Water Footwear: If you plan to explore national parks, forests, or engage in outdoor activities, sturdy and comfortable hiking shoes are a must. Water shoes or sandals with good traction are useful for activities like river rafting, visiting hot springs, or walking on rocky beaches.
  • Swimwear: Costa Rica is renowned for its beautiful beaches, waterfalls, and hot springs, so don’t forget to pack your favorite swimwear. Don’t miss the opportunity to take a dip in the warm Pacific Ocean or relax in natural hot springs.
  • Electronics and Adapters: If you plan to bring electronic devices, remember to pack the necessary adapters and chargers. Costa Rica uses standard US-style electrical outlets with a voltage of 110 volts.
  • Medications and First Aid Kit: Pack any necessary medications, along with a basic first aid kit that includes band-aids, antiseptic creams, pain relievers, and any prescription medications. Also, consider carrying a water purification device or water purification tablets if you plan to visit more remote areas.
  • Travel Documents: Keep your passport, visa, travel insurance, and other important documents in a waterproof bag or pouch. It is also useful to have digital copies of these documents stored securely on your phone or in the cloud.
  • Reusable Items: Costa Rica is committed to sustainability, so consider bringing a reusable water bottle, eco-friendly toiletries, and reusable bags to minimize waste and contribute to responsible travel practices.

By packing weather-appropriate clothing and the necessary essentials, you’ll be well-prepared to enjoy all that Costa Rica has to offer while staying comfortable and protected throughout your trip.


Local Customs and Etiquette

When visiting Costa Rica, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the local customs and etiquette to ensure respectful and meaningful interactions with the local population. Here are some key aspects of Costa Rican culture to keep in mind:

  • Greetings: Costa Ricans are known for their warmth and friendliness, so be prepared for warm greetings and friendly conversations. A simple “Hola” (Hello) or “Buenos días/tardes/noches” (Good morning/afternoon/evening) goes a long way in starting conversations.
  • Punctuality: Costa Ricans have a more relaxed approach to time, so it’s not uncommon for social gatherings and meetings to start a bit later than scheduled. However, it’s still a good idea to be punctual when attending formal events or professional engagements.
  • Respecting Personal Space: Costa Ricans value personal space, so it’s important to maintain an appropriate distance when engaging in conversations. Avoid standing too close or touching someone unless you have a close personal relationship.
  • Politeness and Courtesy: Courtesy and politeness are highly regarded in Costa Rica. It is customary to use phrases such as “por favor” (please) and “gracias” (thank you) in daily interactions. Saying “permiso” (excuse me) when moving through a crowded area or when entering someone’s personal space is also a sign of respect.
  • Tipping: Tipping in Costa Rica is appreciated but not mandatory. In restaurants, a 10% service charge is often included in the bill. It is customary to leave some loose change or round up the bill as an additional tip. It’s also appropriate to tip tour guides, drivers, and hotel staff for their services.
  • Dress Code: Costa Ricans generally dress casually, but it is advisable to dress slightly more conservatively when visiting religious sites or attending formal events. For beachwear, it is acceptable to wear bathing suits and shorts, but be mindful of local guidelines and customs.
  • Environmental Stewardship: Costa Rica is widely recognized for its commitment to environmental conservation. Respect the fragile ecosystems by following the principles of sustainable travel, such as minimizing waste, conserving water and energy, and leaving natural areas undisturbed.
  • Patience and Flexibility: Embrace the “Pura Vida” mindset, which represents the Costa Rican philosophy of living with a positive and relaxed attitude. Things may not always go as planned, whether it’s transportation delays or unexpected changes, so maintaining patience and flexibility will help you adapt and enjoy your trip.
  • Photography: When taking photographs, it’s important to respect the privacy of individuals and seek permission before taking close-up shots. Some attractions or cultural sites may have specific rules regarding photography, so be mindful and adhere to any guidelines provided.

By respecting the local customs and etiquette, you will appreciate the warm hospitality of the Costa Rican people and create deeper connections with the local community, enhancing your overall experience during your visit to this beautiful country.


Safety and Security Considerations

Costa Rica is generally considered a safe and welcoming destination for travelers. However, it’s important to take certain precautions to ensure your safety and security during your trip. Here are some key considerations:

  • Personal Belongings: Keep a close eye on your personal belongings, such as bags, wallets, and cameras, especially in crowded areas or when using public transportation. Use a money belt or a secure bag to carry important documents and valuables.
  • Local Advice and Information: Seek information and advice from local sources, such as hotel staff or official tourism offices, about the safety of specific areas or neighborhoods you plan to visit. They can provide insights about any potential risks and offer practical recommendations.
  • Transportation Safety: Use registered taxis or reputable ride-hailing services like Uber, particularly at night or in unfamiliar areas. If you are renting a car, park it in secure, well-lit areas and avoid leaving valuables in plain sight.
  • Health and Safety Precautions: Prioritize your health and safety by staying hydrated, using sunscreen, and wearing appropriate clothing and footwear. Follow guidelines provided by tour operators and guides when participating in adventure activities, and be aware of potential risks associated with wildlife encounters or hiking in remote areas.
  • Emergency Numbers: Familiarize yourself with the local emergency contact numbers, including the police, fire department, and medical services. Keep these numbers accessible in case of emergencies.
  • Natural Disasters: Costa Rica is located in an area prone to earthquakes, volcanic activity, and tropical storms. Stay informed about potential risks and follow instructions from local authorities in the event of a natural disaster. Carry a small emergency kit with essentials such as a flashlight, whistle, and basic first aid supplies.
  • Travel Insurance: Prior to your trip, obtain comprehensive travel insurance that covers medical emergencies, trip cancellation, and personal belongings. Ensure your policy includes coverage for activities and destinations you plan to engage in.
  • Local Laws and Customs: Familiarize yourself with the local laws, customs, and regulations of Costa Rica. Respect cultural norms, such as appropriate attire when visiting religious sites, and be mindful of local sensitivities.
  • Solo Travelers: If you’re traveling alone, inform someone you trust about your itinerary and check-in with them regularly. Use caution when interacting with strangers and avoid isolated or poorly lit areas, particularly at night.
  • Emergency Preparedness: Take some time to prepare for unforeseen events by having a plan in place. Share your itinerary with a trusted person, keep emergency contacts readily available, and familiarize yourself with the location of the nearest embassy or consulate of your home country.

By exercising caution, staying informed, and being mindful of your surroundings, you can have a safe and enjoyable experience exploring the natural wonders and cultural delights of Costa Rica.


Must-See Attractions in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a treasure trove of natural wonders, offering a diverse range of attractions that will leave you in awe. Here are some of the must-see attractions that should be on every traveler’s bucket list when visiting Costa Rica:

  • Monteverde Cloud Forest: Immerse yourself in the mystical beauty of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Explore the canopy walkways suspended high above the forest floor and witness unique wildlife and vibrant vegetation in this misty cloud forest.
  • Arenal Volcano National Park: Marvel at the impressive Arenal Volcano, an iconic landmark of Costa Rica. Hike the lava fields, visit natural hot springs, or indulge in thrilling adventure activities like zip-lining and white-water rafting in this breathtaking natural wonder.
  • Manuel Antonio National Park: Relax on the pristine beaches and encounter an astonishing array of wildlife in Manuel Antonio National Park. From monkeys and sloths to vibrant bird species, this tropical paradise offers a perfect blend of sandy shores and lush rainforest.
  • Tortuguero National Park: Embark on a journey to the remote and enchanting Tortuguero National Park. Explore the network of canals and witness the nesting of sea turtles, making it a truly remarkable experience for nature enthusiasts.
  • Corcovado National Park: Discover the untouched beauty of Corcovado National Park, considered one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet. Trek through lush rainforests, spot rare wildlife like jaguars and tapirs, and relax on pristine, secluded beaches.
  • La Fortuna Waterfall: Take a refreshing dip in the cool waters of La Fortuna Waterfall, located near the Arenal Volcano. Admire the cascading waterfall amidst the lush greenery and enjoy the natural beauty of this idyllic spot.
  • Tamarindo Beach: Indulge in the beach paradise of Tamarindo, one of Costa Rica’s most popular surf spots. Enjoy the lively atmosphere, soak up the sun on golden sands, and savor fresh seafood at beachside restaurants.
  • Río Celeste: Witness the ethereal beauty of the turquoise Rio Celeste, located in Tenorio Volcano National Park. The color of the water is an otherworldly phenomenon, making it a captivating sight that should not be missed.
  • Poás Volcano National Park: Visit Poás Volcano National Park and gaze into the steaming crater of one of Costa Rica’s active volcanoes. Enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes and take a stroll through the lush cloud forest surrounding the volcano.
  • La Paz Waterfall Gardens: Explore the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, a stunning eco-park that features cascading waterfalls, lush gardens, and a wide variety of rescued wildlife. Get up close with tropical animals, visit butterfly and hummingbird gardens, and witness the power of nature.

These are just a few of the incredible attractions that Costa Rica has to offer. From breathtaking natural landscapes to unique wildlife encounters, each destination provides a glimpse into Costa Rica’s rich biodiversity and natural wonders. Embrace the pura vida spirit and explore these must-see attractions that make Costa Rica a true paradise on Earth.


Outdoor Activities and Adventure Sports

Costa Rica is renowned for its abundance of outdoor activities and adventure sports, offering adrenaline-pumping experiences for thrill-seekers and nature lovers alike. Here are some of the top outdoor activities and adventure sports you can enjoy in Costa Rica:

  • Zip-lining: Glide across the treetops and soar through the lush rainforests on exhilarating zip-line tours. Experience an adrenaline rush as you admire breathtaking views and immerse yourself in the beauty of Costa Rica’s canopy.
  • White-Water Rafting: Challenge the rapids of Costa Rica’s rivers on an unforgettable white-water rafting adventure. From thrilling Class III to adrenaline-pumping Class IV rapids, you can navigate through stunning landscapes and lush river valleys.
  • Surfing: With a coastline on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, Costa Rica offers excellent surfing conditions for beginners and experienced surfers alike. From the world-famous breaks in Tamarindo to the powerful waves of Santa Teresa, there are surf spots to suit all skill levels.
  • Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP): Explore the calm waters of Costa Rica’s rivers, lakes, and coastal areas on a stand-up paddleboard. Enjoy a peaceful and serene experience as you paddle along, taking in the beautiful surroundings and discovering hidden gems.
  • Scuba Diving and Snorkeling: Dive into the vibrant underwater world of Costa Rica’s coral reefs, marine reserves, and volcanic rock formations. Encounter an array of marine life, including tropical fish, turtles, rays, and even the occasional shark.
  • Hiking and Trekking: Lace up your hiking boots and embark on scenic trails that navigate through Costa Rica’s diverse landscapes. Discover hidden waterfalls, explore cloud forests, and spot elusive wildlife as you venture into the country’s numerous national parks and reserves.
  • Horseback Riding: Experience the beauty of the Costa Rican countryside on horseback. Ride through lush green fields, along pristine beaches, or into the picturesque highlands, and immerse yourself in the natural splendor of the surroundings.
  • Canopy Tours: Push your limits and challenge your fears on a thrilling canopy tour. Swing through the treetops on zip-lines, navigate suspension bridges, and slide down exhilarating rappels, all while enjoying a unique perspective of the surrounding rainforest.
  • ATV and Off-Road Excursions: Explore the rugged terrains of Costa Rica on an ATV or off-road vehicle. Ride through muddy trails, cross rivers, and navigate scenic landscapes, adding a sense of adventure and excitement to your Costa Rican experience.
  • Bungee Jumping and Skydiving: Are you seeking an ultimate adrenaline rush? Take a leap of faith with bungee jumping or experience the thrill of skydiving. Leap from towering heights or freefall through the sky, enjoying unparalleled views of Costa Rica.

From the thrilling to the awe-inspiring, Costa Rica offers a multitude of outdoor activities and adventure sports for those who crave excitement and wish to explore the country’s natural wonders in a unique way. Remember to engage in these activities with reputable operators who prioritize safety and sustainability, ensuring you have a memorable and safe adventure in this paradise.


Local Cuisine and Dining Options

Costa Rica’s cuisine is as diverse and vibrant as its natural landscapes. From flavorful traditional dishes to international fusion cuisine, the country offers a wide range of dining options that will satisfy every palate. Here’s a taste of the local cuisine and dining scene in Costa Rica:

  • Gallo Pinto: Considered Costa Rica’s national dish, Gallo Pinto is a must-try. This hearty and flavorful dish consists of rice and black beans cooked together and seasoned with onions, peppers, and cilantro. It is often served with eggs, sour cream, and tortillas for a delicious breakfast or lunch.
  • Casado: Another iconic Costa Rican dish is Casado, which translates to “married.” It typically includes rice, black beans, plantains, salad, and a choice of protein such as chicken, beef, fish, or vegetables. It provides a well-balanced and satisfying meal.
  • Ceviche: Costa Rica’s coastal location means that fresh seafood is a highlight of the local cuisine. Ceviche, a dish of marinated raw fish or shrimp, is a popular choice. The fish or shrimp is typically marinated in citrus juices, such as lime or lemon, and mixed with onions, peppers, cilantro, and other seasonings for a refreshing and tangy flavor.
  • Tamales: Tamales are a traditional Costa Rican delicacy typically made from masa (corn dough), filled with various ingredients such as seasoned meat, vegetables, or cheese, and wrapped in banana leaves or corn husks. They are steamed until cooked and enjoyed as a delicious and filling treat, especially during holidays or special occasions.
  • Casados de Mariscos: For seafood lovers, Casados de Mariscos is a must-try variation of the classic Casado dish. It features a variety of fresh seafood, such as fish, shrimp, or octopus, served alongside rice, beans, plantains, and a zesty salad.
  • Arroz con Leche: End your meal with a sweet treat like Arroz con Leche, a traditional rice pudding made with rice, milk, sugar, cinnamon, and often garnished with a sprinkle of grated nutmeg. It is a comforting and delicious dessert that will satisfy your sweet tooth.
  • Sodas: In Costa Rica, “sodas” are traditional family-run eateries that serve affordable and authentic Costa Rican dishes. These local establishments offer a wide range of options, from typical dishes to international favorites.
  • Fusion Cuisine: Costa Rica’s culinary scene also boasts fusion cuisine that combines traditional flavors with international influences. You can find restaurants offering a blend of Costa Rican, Asian, Mediterranean, and other global cuisines, providing a unique and diverse dining experience.
  • Coffee Culture: Costa Rica is celebrated for its high-quality coffee beans. Embrace the country’s coffee culture by enjoying a cup of aromatic, locally grown coffee in one of the many charming cafés or coffee plantations.

When dining out, remember that “Tico time” may mean relaxed and slower service, so savor the opportunity to enjoy your meal at a leisurely pace. Also, it’s customary to leave a small tip at restaurants, typically 10% of the total bill.


Exploring the local cuisine in Costa Rica is an adventure in itself. Be open to trying new flavors, embracing the traditions, and enjoying the blend of local and international influences that make Costa Rican cuisine a true gastronomic delight.


Shopping and Souvenirs

Shopping in Costa Rica offers a delightful array of unique and culturally significant items that make for memorable souvenirs. From traditional handicrafts to vibrant artworks and delicious treats, here’s what to look out for when shopping in Costa Rica:

  • Handicrafts: Costa Rica is known for its beautiful handicrafts, including intricate wood carvings, colorful ceramics, woven baskets, and handmade textiles. These traditional crafts make for stunning decorations or meaningful keepsakes.
  • Coffee and Chocolate: Costa Rica produces some of the world’s finest coffee and high-quality chocolates. Bring home a taste of Costa Rica with locally sourced coffee beans, gourmet coffee blends, or handcrafted chocolates.
  • Artwork: The country’s vibrant art scene offers a wide range of artwork by local artists, including paintings, sculptures, and mixed media pieces. Visit art galleries or outdoor markets to discover unique masterpieces that reflect Costa Rican culture and landscapes.
  • Jewelry: Look for exquisite jewelry made from precious and semi-precious stones, such as jade or volcanic stones. Crafted into earrings, bracelets, necklaces, or rings, these pieces make for elegant and meaningful souvenirs.
  • Traditional Clothing: Traditional Costa Rican clothing includes items like the colorful “pura vida” T-shirts, handwoven huipil dresses, or Panama hats. These garments represent the country’s vibrant culture and can serve as stylish and symbolic reminders of your Costa Rican journey.
  • Local Delicacies: Take home the flavors of Costa Rica with you by purchasing local treats such as gourmet coffee beans, artisanal chocolates, tropical fruit jams, or bottles of Costa Rican hot sauces. These edible souvenirs make for delightful gifts or personal indulgences.
  • Indigenous Crafts: Costa Rica is home to several indigenous communities, and their crafts showcase rich cultural traditions. Look for intricate beadwork, woven baskets, pottery, or traditional masks made by indigenous artisans.
  • Outdoor Gear: With Costa Rica’s abundance of outdoor activities, you might find yourself wanting to invest in sturdy and reliable gear. Look for items like hiking boots, waterproof backpacks, or quick-dry clothing to enhance your future adventures.
  • Local Spirits: Costa Rica has a burgeoning craft beer and rum scene. Explore the local breweries and distilleries to sample and purchase unique spirits, such as artisanal beers or small-batch rums.
  • Music and Instruments: Costa Rican music, such as marimba and salsa, is a significant part of the country’s cultural heritage. Look for traditional musical instruments like maracas or ocarinas, or purchase CDs featuring local artists to enjoy the rhythmic sounds of Costa Rica back home.

When shopping, be sure to visit local markets, artisan cooperatives, and independent shops to directly support the local economy and artisans. Remember to bargain politely in traditional markets, but understand that fixed prices are generally the norm in established stores.


Whether it’s a beautiful piece of artwork or a bag of freshly roasted coffee, the souvenirs you bring back from Costa Rica will serve as cherished reminders of your time in this enchanting country.


Useful Phrases in Spanish

While many people in Costa Rica speak English, knowing a few basic Spanish phrases can greatly enhance your interactions and show appreciation for the local culture. Here are some useful phrases to help you navigate your way around:

  • Hello – Hola
  • Goodbye – Adiós
  • Please – Por favor
  • Thank you – Gracias
  • You’re welcome – De nada
  • Yes – Sí
  • No – No
  • Excuse me – Disculpe
  • Sorry – Lo siento
  • I don’t understand – No entiendo
  • Do you speak English? – ¿Habla inglés?
  • How much does it cost? – ¿Cuánto cuesta?
  • Where is the bathroom? – ¿Dónde está el baño?
  • I need help – Necesito ayuda
  • Can you recommend a good restaurant? – ¿Puede recomendar un buen restaurante?
  • What is your name? – ¿Cómo te llamas?
  • My name is… – Me llamo…
  • Where is…? – ¿Dónde está…?
  • How are you? – ¿Cómo estás?
  • I’m fine, thank you – Estoy bien, gracias

Remember to speak slowly and clearly, and don’t be afraid to use hand gestures or point to help convey your meaning. Costa Ricans appreciate any effort to speak Spanish, no matter how basic your skills may be.


Keep in mind that dialects and accents can vary across different regions of Costa Rica. Embrace the opportunity to practice your Spanish, learn from locals, and enjoy the linguistic richness of the country as you connect with its warm and friendly people.


Tips for Sustainable Travel in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a global leader in sustainable tourism, and as a visitor, you can contribute to the country’s conservation efforts and minimize your environmental impact. Here are some tips for practicing sustainable travel in Costa Rica:

  • Support Eco-Friendly Accommodations: Choose lodging options that prioritize eco-friendly practices, such as using renewable energy, minimizing water usage, and implementing recycling programs. Look for hotels and lodges with sustainability certifications like the Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST).
  • Respect Wildlife and Natural Areas: Observe wildlife from a respectful distance and avoid touching or feeding them. Keep in mind that some species are protected, and it is important to follow guidelines provided by tour guides and park rangers to protect Costa Rica’s rich biodiversity.
  • Minimize Plastic Usage: Reduce your consumption of single-use plastics by carrying a reusable water bottle, bringing your own shopping bags, and saying no to plastic straws and utensils. Look for refill stations to fill your bottle with clean drinking water.
  • Conserve Water and Energy: Practice responsible water usage by taking shorter showers and reusing towels when possible. Turn off lights and electronic devices when not in use to conserve energy in your accommodation.
  • Support Local Communities: Engage in activities that support local communities, such as dining at family-owned restaurants, purchasing handicrafts directly from artisans, or hiring local guides. This helps promote sustainable economic growth and preserves cultural traditions.
  • Eat Locally and Sustainably: Enjoy traditional Costa Rican cuisine made from locally sourced ingredients. Opt for sustainable seafood choices, and support restaurants that prioritize sustainable fishing practices and farm-to-table concepts.
  • Choose Responsible Tour Operators: When participating in activities like hiking, snorkeling, or wildlife tours, choose tour operators that have a commitment to environmental conservation and follow sustainable practices.
  • Respect Cultural Norms: Familiarize yourself with local customs and traditions to avoid unintentionally offending locals. Learn a few basic phrases in Spanish to enhance your interactions with the local community and show appreciation for their language and culture.
  • Stay on Designated Trails: When exploring national parks and protected areas, stick to designated trails to minimize damage to delicate ecosystems. Avoid stepping on vegetation and pay attention to any guidelines or instructions provided by park rangers.
  • Practice Responsible Waste Management: Dispose of waste properly by using designated recycling and waste bins. If you are in a remote area where recycling facilities are limited, pack out your waste and dispose of it appropriately when you reach a proper recycling or waste disposal facility.

By incorporating these practices into your travel routine, you can help preserve Costa Rica’s natural wonders and support the sustainable development of local communities. Your actions can contribute to the long-term well-being of the country’s ecosystems and cultural heritage, ensuring that future generations can continue to enjoy the beauty of Costa Rica.